We are on the Island of Detached Amusement this week. With two games against teams with a combined 9-12 record, Flyer fans have little to look forward to until the start of Atlantic Ten play. So let’s, collectively, get through the next pair of games together. If you attending the VMI game please get your head checked.
Kevin Stallings, a.k.a. Bill Dauterive, followed what we commonly refer to as the Purnell Protocol: leave town before the fire gets too hot and, as a result, seamlessly extend your career by another 3-5 years (and keep them paychecks coming). Stallings did just that, leaving Vanderbilt for Pittsburgh after Jaime Dixon departed the Panther program for an opportunity at Texas Christian. Vanderbilt in turn hired Bryce Drew away from Valparaiso and the coaching carousel just kept spinning.
Vandy is 6-5 on the season, an trying affair that has already seen its fair share of ups and downs. The Dores have registered losses to Butler, Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State (a 23 point pink-socking), Marquette and Bucknell. Basically they’ll take a loss against any school that begins with an “M” or a “B.” On paper Vanderbilt’s best win is probably last Sunday’s victory over Chattanooga – a Commodore three-pointer with three seconds left on the clock was the ultimate decider in that matchup. Suffice it to say, UD and Vanderbilt could combine their wins later this season and still not scratch a Top 50 win.
Vandy returns three starters from last year’s club, a team that featured two NBA first-round draft picks and ended their season in the Gem City, bounced out of the tournament by Wichita State in a First Four game. Drew’s inaugural squad was picked to finish sixth in the SEC, smack dab in the middle of the league. Accordingly, the expectation coming into this season was an appearance in the NIT or that one weird post-season tournament where you play like a three-game series against whatever team Herb Sendek is coaching at the time.
What do the Commodores do well? Besides playing some of the funkiest and most indelible songs of the late 70s/early 80s, they shoot the ball awfully well. Vandy is currently shooting an impressive 40.3% from behind the arc and knocking down free-throws at an exceptional rate, 78.3% from the stripe. It’s a fairly efficient offensive team, one that takes its sweet damn time getting shots up.
Vanderbilt does turn the ball over quite a bit, as Tom from Anchor of Gold explained on our podcast earlier this week, they lack a natural point-guard to trust with the ball. The Dores keep their opponents off the offensive glass but rarely pressure the ball. In short, Coach Drew is slowly building a program based on a steady offensive attack and consistent defense. Check back in a few years.
Luke Kornet will stick out like a sore thumb. He’s a 7’1″ stick of butter that can beat you inside and from the perimeter. Although he probably shoots more threes than he should, don’t we all, Kornet does have the ability to knock them down. He is scoring thirteen points a contest, grabbing around five boards a game and will undoubtedly rack up some blocks against an undersized Dayton squad. Drew would probably like to see Kornet play closer to the basket against the Flyers, but the senior from the Lone Star state will absolutely drift outside to jack long balls.
Wings Matthew Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson poses matchup problems for the Gem City boys. Fisher-Davis is the team’s leading scorer, 14.9 a game, an absolute terror from the three-point line. The 6’5″ junior is knocking down 44% of his three-point attempts and has yet to have one of his shots hit the top of the backboard. Roberson is a wild dog. The 6’6″ junior has the potential to rack up a double-double each time he hits the floor. He is the Commodores’ most tenacious rebounder and chips in around eleven points per outing.
Riley LaChance will get the nod at the starting point-guard slot. After falling out of favor with Stallings last season, LaChance was allegedly always fucking around with the coach’s screensaver, the junior has earned the trust of Bryce Drew. He is, and I shit you not, shooting 71% from the three-point line (23-of-32 coming into today’s game against UD). LaChance is dishing out four assists per game.
Payton Willis and Nolan Cressler — two dudes from Sigma Chi or 6’4″ guards that get significant minutes for the Dores? Maybe both. Willis, a freshman, is enjoying a solid season, scoring seven points a game and shooting 41% from three. Cressler, a transfer from Cornell, can shoot the ball a bit and helps out on the boards.
Vanderbilt doesn’t have a deep bench, the roster only has ten scholarship players. 6’10” freshman forward Djery Baptiste and 6’7″ sophomore Joe Toye are the two main reserves for the Commodores. Baptiste is obviously a big body, paid to bang down low and scrap rebounds off the glass. Toye is struggling offensively through the team’s first nine games, but he seems like a nice enough guy.
A game against a mid-tier Power 5 team right before Christmas in the Sweater Centre? This is an Archie Miller special, no way the Flyers lose this one. After a disappointing performance in Chicago, Dayton comes out firing on at least some cylinders and manages to take out Vanderbilt for their eighth win of the season.
I’m going to speculate that Charles Cooke has issues scoring against the Commodores’ wings, so Scoochie Smith picks up the slack and leads the Flyers with 18 points on the night. UD wins 66-61, one final non-conference game left to play (and, my God, it is awful. I feel sorry for people that laid down honest money for season tickets this year).